The 2014 Houston Auto Show celebrated its 31st anniversary by bringing a bigger, better-than-ever exhibition to Reliant Center January 22-26. Expanding to 700,000 square feet with scores more vehicles, demonstrations, exhibitors, and interactive displays than ever before, the HAS also added more “ride and drive” opportunities.
The Houston Auto Show, produced by the Houston Auto Dealers Association, pioneered the ride and drive demonstrations that have been copied by numerous other auto shows, and this year’s event had 60 models available for test drives. Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Scion, Toyota, Volkswagen, Fiat, Dodge, Jeep, and RAM all offered the opportunity to drive their vehicles.
Auto shows provide the perfect shopping market to allow potential buyers a way to compare a number of competitive vehicles by price, style, and even performance. Highlights of the HAS included the introduction of GM’s gorgeous 2015 Cadillac Escalade and the Escalade ESV with extended wheelbase. The Escalades purr to a 6.2-L V8 EcoTec3 engine producing 420 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque with six-speed automatic transmission, and they have every luxury touch upscale buyers want. If you have to ask the price, this might not be the car for you, but MSRP is estimated to start around $70,000 when these beauties ship to dealers this spring.
Also on display simultaneously with Detroit’s prestigious North American International Auto Show were Ford’s new aluminum-body F-150 truck and the new 2015 Mustang. This makes sense when you see statistics showing Houston’s region is the No. 1 Mustang market in the U.S. (North Texas Ford dealer Sam Pack stole some of their thunder by buying the first production model of the new Mustang at a charity auction for $300,000, so he will have bragging rights when the iconic Pony car ships to dealers next fall).
Other highlights included the unveiling of the 2015 Chrysler 200 Mid-size sedan with standard nine-speed automatic transmission for estimated 35 highway mpg and electronic shifting with rotary dial, plus elegant good looks, all for an extremely agreeable MSRP under $22,000.
The iconic Willy’s Edition Jeep Wrangler that traces the brand’s roots to WWII was one of the most photographed vehicles at the show. Several other Jeep special editions were unveiled at the show, which also featured the popular Camp Jeep, a 25,000-square foot exhibit that lets visitors try out off-road capabilities of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and other vehicles without leaving the floor.
Still strutting after winning both the 2014 Car and Truck of the Year at the North American auto show in Detroit, Chevrolet brought their sexy Corvette Stingray and sturdy Silverado truck to the HAS to wow visitors. Other highlights of the show included the Texas Auto Writers Association and Motor Trend 2014 Truck winner, the RAM 1500, and the unveiling of the just launched 2014 Toyota Highlander.
Mazda also got raves for their stylish 2014 Mazda3, and the 2014 Volkswagen Beetle looks better than ever—to my eyes, anyway. Since a 1970s era Beetle convertible was the first car I bought with my own money (or the money I borrowed from the local credit union) I can’t help but feel a tug of the heart any time I spot a Beetle.
Exhibitors at the HAS included Honda with their new Accord hybrid, Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Hyundai, Kia, Infiniti, Jeep, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Mini Countryman, Mitsibushi, Nissan, Porsche, Scion, Subaru, and Volvo. There were a number of electric and hybrid vehicles such as the Smart For Two Electric, LEAF, Volt, and others.
Jo Ann Holt is a journalist and car columnist based in Dallas and a member of Texas Automobile Writers Association (TAWA).